Companies of all shapes and sizes can partner with telematics providers to create a safer, more secure, and more efficient fleet. - Photo: Work Truck

Companies of all shapes and sizes can partner with telematics providers to create a safer, more secure, and more efficient fleet.

Photo: Work Truck 

Telematics today means fleets can access data on maintenance needs, driver behavior, and help stay on top of compliance. It takes an open relationship between the provider, the fleet, and the software itself to create a perfect recipe of reliable, usable, and applicable data that will save fleets time, money, and peace of mind. And with more than 3 million fleet vehicles on the road, that adds up to a considerable amount in savings.

And it’s not just big fleets that can save big. Companies of all shapes and sizes can partner with telematics providers to create a safer, more secure, and more efficient fleet.

Solving Your Maintenance Issues, One Vehicle at a Time

Drivers put vehicles through hundreds to thousands of miles of drive time, constant wear and tear, and in some cases, expensive repairs. But, in the not-so-perfect world of fleet maintenance, there is some hope in the form of pre-scheduled preventive maintenance. What’s better is that with telematics human error can be somewhat removed from the equation, increasing the likelihood that schedules for oil changes and tune-ups are followed — and strange sounds from the engine or transmission get diagnosed quickly. Add to that the fact that average maintenance costs are hovering somewhere around $11 to $12 per unit, per month, while average repair costs are closer to $40 per unit, per month. Across an entire fleet, these average costs add up fast.

Some maintenance solutions offer a web-based management system that allows fleets to run their entire maintenance operation more effectively and efficiently. These systems include work order management, preventive maintenance scheduling, inventory and parts management, purchasing, custom reporting, and maintenance cost accounting tools — taking the misplaced reminders out and replacing them with the ability to track vehicle health even when the car or truck is on the road.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes

Fleets can monitor engine diagnostic trouble code (DTC) alerts, giving managers access to information such as engine functions like battery voltage, coolant temperature, powertrain malfunctions, intake valve issues, and even oxygen sensor problems. The ability to utilize real-time vehicle diagnostics is immeasurable, with fault code data instantly delivered to fleet managers and dispatchers to help them schedule shop time and maintenance resources in advance to reduce vehicle downtime.

Fleets can also use trend data from fault codes to develop maintenance schedules and routines with the goal of reducing progressive damage and on-road repairs, while also avoiding false diagnostics and towing fees. Specific vehicle applications, for example, may endure more wear and tear compared to other fleet vehicles, which telematics can help monitor. Aggressive driving, such as harsh cornering and harsh braking can also accelerate wear. Using telematics data, you can identify correctable driving behaviors to reduce the impact on maintenance.

You can also monitor wear and tear with engine hour tracking. This gives you a more realistic picture of actual wear and tear on engine and related components. For example, excessive idling, which is not measured by the odometer, can reduce a vehicle’s lifecycle.

Service and scheduling

When setting up repairs, telematics can help you find shops or dealerships along routes that will help streamline repairs and preventive maintenance. For example, a trucking company that performs most of its own maintenance looking to lower vehicle repair costs by reducing breakdowns or repairs out on the road could connect service repair data to actual truck and routing data. This would allow them to better schedule vehicles for preventive maintenance around routes.

Telematics systems can also act as virtual odometers for scheduling preventive maintenance. These odometer readings are exported directly from the vehicle’s engine computer and can then be automatically sent to the fleet’s telematics dashboard, giving fleets the ability to schedule vehicle maintenance more precisely, reduce overall maintenance costs, and decrease fleet downtime.

Aside from the monetary savings, using telematics to keep up with preventive maintenance and keep an eye on each vehicle can also increase fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase uptime and productivity, maintain vehicle safety, and help you stay in compliance with vehicle inspections.

Safe, Safer, Safest

Keeping drivers and the vehicles around them safe is a key priority for every fleet manager. But many times it can be an uphill battle. According to NHTSA, 94% of collisions are caused by driver error.

And while driver training and maintained vehicles are two of the most important responsibilities when ensuring safety, telematics can add benefits that reduce costs and increase safety. The reality that managers face is that unsafe driving behavior can lead to driver turnover, higher insurance premiums, and accident-related expenses. According to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, in 2013 alone, traffic crashes cost employers more than $47 billion.

Driver Behavior

Work-related accidents can be financially devastating for companies, with losses ranging from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Telematics can help reduce some of the causes of such things as aggressive driving by monitoring drivers and alerting fleet managers. Some suppliers offer in-cab driver feedback tools that use real-time audible alerts to reduce the likelihood of an on-the-clock accident. Otherwise, fleets can use the data to create driver-specific training sessions. This can minimize fleet costs related to both insurance premiums and accident claims by lowering the risk of collisions through safer driving habits. Certain systems can identify drivers that need training and even measure their performance against the company’s safety goals.

Telematics has come a long way from just reporting GPS, date, time, and location. Most systems can now detect seat belt usage, speeding, and aggressive driving. Fleets can also reduce accidents through active detection and notification of possible dangers. If an employee is driving erratically, fleet managers can be notified in real-time, giving them the ability to reach out to the driver and find out what is happening. They might be distracted by their cell phone, suffering from a mechanical or physical ailment, or just be hurrying to get to the next location — situations that can be corrected before they lead to an accident.

Chart courtesy of FleetAnswers.

Chart courtesy of FleetAnswers.

Advanced Driver Training

Some telematics solutions even use predictive analytics, a type of data mining where a variable that can be measured for an individual is used to predict future behaviors. This has become one of the most advanced forms of customized risk management, allowing fleets to focus on driver retention and varying safety models and applications.

While looking at driving records, traffic violations, and accident reports can give managers some insight into a driver, information on driving behaviors garnered through data derived from telematics can allow fleets to create safety training that is tailored to certain risky driving behaviors, pre-empting other collisions. Predictive analytics can also be used to determine how likely an individual is to be involved in an accident, as well as the associated costs.

Driver behavior data can also be used to benefit the team as a whole. Gamification is gaining popularity among fleets, turning good behavior into a way to push all drivers to do their best. Fleet managers can use a rating and ranking system that measures each driver’s “score” against both a metric and their peers’ scores. Scoreboards can then be created to help drivers monitor themselves and their progress.

Since no two fleets operate in the same way, a cookie-cutter approach to driver safety is no longer viable. Fleet managers want to be able to easily compare vehicle and operations metrics over time to detect trends and risky behavior. They want to stress test how changes in fleet operations and driver behavior will affect fleet costs and efficiency. Through the use of customized reports, specific behavior monitoring, and easy access to data, fleets can use telematics to keep their drivers safe, their vehicles free of accidents, and their budgets in the black.

Compliance: Resistance Is Dangerous and Costly

Whether you’re behind the wheel of a sedan or a big rig, there are numerous rules and regulations that are along for the ride. Compliance could be as simple as following company policy by putting your phone away or following government regulations, such as keeping track of Hours of Service with an electronic logging device. This is where telematics can assist in keeping drivers and your organization on the right side of the road and the rules.

Electronic Logging Device (ELD)

Starting at the federal level, many companies believe the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will have a huge impact on the growth of the telematics market. For years, commercial truck drivers have used paper logs to maintain Hours of Service records. A mandate adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all commercial truck drivers to use ELDs by the end of 2017. On Oct. 31, 2016 a court actually upheld challenges to the rule, which means carriers can be rest assured that the regulation will in fact be going into effect.

Since more than 2 million vehicles will need to purchase ELD devices with GPS capabilities, many telematics providers are going to be offering GPS tracking and ELD services combined. This provides the customer an all-in-one fleet management solution. Since providers can add a number of different capabilities to these devices, fleets are also able to increase scheduling and time-reporting efficiencies, save on fuel by reducing unnecessary idle time, and improve customer service by having the ability to provide more accurate job documentation and transparency.

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)

Then there is the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), an agreement between the continental U.S. and Canada to simplify the reporting of fuel use by motor carriers that operate in more than one jurisdiction. Companies are allowed to pay fuel taxes to one agency instead of paying different states and agencies in each area they operate. There are exemptions that vary by state and sometimes throughout the year, making it even more difficult for fleets to understand. And when there’s misunderstanding, mistakes are made, which leads to noncompliance and fines that range from $50 per fee to 10% of the delinquent taxes.

Chart courtesy of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Chart courtesy of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While there currently isn’t a paperless requirement when it comes to record-keeping for IFTA, companies have to keep at least four years worth of records. In paper form, this can become quite cumbersome. Telematics can help by providing the routes (and mileage) of vehicles, collecting the data for each fleet, and providing updated data to satisfy IFTA requirements, all in an electronic format. Plus, with the availability of fuel card integration with many telematics providers, this can make fuel purchase reporting even easier.

Fleets can also download reports that help automate the process, quickly creating a report that‘s clear, concise, and accurate. The reports can include information such as the date and time of the trip’s start and finish, its origin and destination, the route taken, the beginning and ending odometer reading, the total mile for the trip, which states or provinces were visited, and even the vehicle registration information.

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program must also be adhered to when it comes to keeping costs down and vehicles on the road — and citations avoided. While it only affects heavy-duty operators, CSA violations can cover anything from brake or shock maintenance citations to issues with driver certification, Hours of Service compliance, or even maintenance record-keeping. Nearly all of the items under regulation in CSA and that undergo inspection on a vehicle, can be managed and monitored using telematics data.

Organization Policies

Sometimes the rules we follow were created at an organizational level, making it less of a regulatory issue but an equally important set of procedures. In many cases, this could be no cell phone use at any time while driving, even in states where hands-free use is allowed. While telematics can’t directly keep your drivers from using their cell phones, driver behavior data can help indicate distracted drivers. For example, sporadic speeding up and down or harsh cornering could be a sign that a driver is distracted, whether it’s cell phone use, eating while driving, or other risky behaviors drivers should avoid.

Know Where to Prevent Problems

Whether it’s for safety, security, vehicle maintenance, or just peace of mind, telematics can provide fleets with the data they need to keep their vehicles running smooth, safe, and on the right path. Fleets and telematics providers, working together, can create a program that is customized to offer managers the insight they need to ensure their fleet is moving along in the most efficient way possible. By seeing the big picture, you understand more about your fleet, when to make improvements, and where to look for problems.

About the author
Staff Writer

Staff Writer


Our team of enterprising editors brings years of experience covering the fleet industry. We offer a deep understanding of trends and the ever-evolving landscapes we cover in fleet, trucking, and transportation.  

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